Once on the public internet, those packets travel through a bunch of computers. A separate request is made to a series of name servers to translate the DNS name ZDNet.com to an IP address. That information is sent back to your browser, which then sends the request, again, through a bunch of computers on the public internet. Eventually, it reaches the ZDNet infrastructure, which also routes those packets, then grabs a webpage (which is actually a bunch of separate elements), and sends all that back to you.
If your VPN provider is based within a country that is part of the 14 Eyes, it can be asked to share data of its customers and will legally have to comply. If your provider promises that it doesn't log any information, you're probably safe within the 14 Eyes, but it is more of a risk if privacy is your main concern and you might want to consider looking for a VPN provider that is based elsewhere.
Using a VPN will prevent most kinds of DNS attacks that would redirect you to a phishing page, but a regular old page made to look like a legit one in order to trick you into entering your data can still work. Some VPNs, and most browsers, are pretty good about blocking phishing pages, but this attack still claims too many victims to be ignored. Use common sense and be sure to verify that websites are what they say they are by looking carefully at the URL and always visiting HTTPS sites.
As seen in our worst free VPN guide, there are reasons why you should pay for a VPN. That said, you shouldn’t go broke just because you should pay. In addition to finding the cheapest VPNs on the market, we looked for the providers that offer the most value for your dollar. If you can’t afford a VPN, you can read our section below with our free recommendation.
It’s likely that your data is already stored in multiple databases by multiple companies. Be that as it may, a VPN can help you stem the bleeding. By using one, you’re hiding your IP address and the metadata that’s sent with each web request. As we said, VPNs act like middlemen between you and a web server, assigning you an new IP address and, as such, a new location.
IVPN goes further than the other leading candidates we considered by being transparent about who runs the service and is responsible for your privacy. The company lists its core team on its website, and its small team has an online presence on a variety of platforms. In contrast, only one employee at ExpressVPN has a public face: VP of marketing Harold Li gave us detailed answers to questions about policies and internal security, but couldn’t tell us much about who else worked there. (We discuss ExpressVPN in more detail in the Competition section—that company was almost our top pick but for this issue.)
Yes, despite trying hard to meet all aspects of a top VPN, ZenMate maintains a budget-friendly outlook. It allows users to purchase their monthly plan for $9.99 only. For users who want to receive better value, there is a 1-year plan available. It offers an amazing 40% discount – lowering the monthly pricing to $5.99 only. You can subscribe via a number of payment methods. These include UnionPay, PayPal, Discover, JCB, Diners Club, Maestro, American Express, MasterCard, and Visa.
The fast speeds offered by ExpressVPN servers, coupled with Netflix unblocking and torrenting capabilities, make the provider a great choice. We can vouch for this, especially after conducting a thorough analysis on the VPN service. The test below involves all aspects of information leakage. As you can see, there is no indication of our official US location. The local IP, the public IP, and the DNS address all indicate that we are based in Canada!
The process of determining the anonymity of a VPN does not just end by a WebRTC leak test. Users need to make sure the provider they select, offers maximum privacy and anonymity. As a result, there should be no DNS leaks. The results below reveal a single DNS server, which is located in the UK. This means, our identity is completely secure, as there are no signs pointing to our official US location!

NordVPN holds the number one spot considering all of its features combined in a VPN that works at an excellent level. Regarding security, NordVPN has a proven DNS leak protection, including the IPv4, IPv6 and WebRTC address protocols, as well as mobile protocols such as IKEv2. In addition, PPTP, L2TP, IPSec and OpenVPN are also used to ensure the most secure and up-to-date protection service. Double layer encryption is employed in the tunnels which NordVPN hosts, which is nearly impossible to break, even if super computers are working non-stop for years trying to decipher it. In the event that someone sniffs some of the traffic, it will still be encrypted, so NordVPN has set the bar high for the most secure VPN requirements.


PPTP - PPTP has been around since the days of Windows 95. The main selling point of PPTP is that it can be simply setup on every major OS. In short, PPTP tunnels a point-to-point connection over the GRE protocol. Unfortunately, the security of the PPTP protocol has been called into question in recent years. It is still strong, but not the most secure.
Speed-wise, Avast SecureLine did well in our European speed tests, with us recording over 9.83MB/s (78.64Mbit/s) in our file transfer tests to the Netherlands. Its US performance was a little below average but still decent at 3.22MB/s (25.76Mbit/s), although UK performance was a bit slower than in our last round of tests, at 6.5MB/s (52Mbit/s) via FTP and 5.8MB/s (46.4Mbit/s) for an HTTP download.
Likewise, if you're connecting via a nation's local carrier, that carrier may be intercepting your traffic, particularly if you're a non-native of that nation. In that situation, if you must connect back to applications and services at home, using a VPN is quite literally the least you can do. Also, keep in mind that if you use your phone's hotspot to connect your computer to the internet, you'll want to use a VPN on your computer as well.
When you connect to the internet, your IP address and system information are sent along with each packet. Those requests go through the DNS servers of your internet service provider and are routed to the domains they’re requesting. During that time, the government and network snoopers can spy on your connection and log the data you’re transferring.
Most VPN clients also let you set compulsory tunnels or disable split tunnels so that when the client has a VPN tunnel established, the client doesn't allow communications from outside channels. This restriction prevents an attacker who compromises the VPN client computer from leapfrogging from the Internet onto your network. These client measures aren't silver bullets, but they thwart all but the most serious attackers. Unfortunately, most software-based VPNs, including the XP and Win2K VPN clients, don't offer these protections.
Oftentimes, your internet routes may not offer optimal bandwidth. This hinders the entire gaming experience, as you suffer from extremely high pings, resulting in lagging or rubber banding. By connecting to a local VPN, you can boost speeds to distant destinations. Subsequently, you benefit from smooth overseas gaming, while securing yourself from DDoS attacks from other players!
For two years running, Private Internet Access has performed the best in our network tests and remained the cheapest full-fledged VPN service we've tried. It has more than 3,000 servers worldwide, supports platforms ranging from Windows and Mac to open-source routers, and lets you customize your tunneling and encryption protocols. You can pay in bitcoin, and you don't have to provide your real name.

Users are already aware that they receive quite the amazing level of anonymity online when using NordVPN. This is because pf their strategic location and highly secure servers around the world. However, to be completely sure of the services’ credibility, we conducted a WebRTC leak Test. Needless to say, there were no errors found, as your local IP and IPv6 address both were invisible.
ProtonVPN has the unique distinction of placing no data restrictions on free users. You can browse as much as you want, as long as you want. You will be limited to just one device on the service at a time and can only choose between three server locations, but the unlimited data makes up for all that. It doesn't hurt that ProtonVPN, from the same people that brought you super-secure ProtonMail email, is very concerned about security and customer privacy. For all that, ProtonVPN is our Editors' Choice for free VPN.
If you require a high level of trust on the authentication process as well as the encryption, you might consider using digital certificates instead of the standard preshared secret key that most VPNs default to. Digital certificates guarantee that the person trying to connect is who he or she says he or she is. A separate digital certificate for each end connection can be expensive; however, some VPN vendors offer authentication services that provide a bulk discount on certificates.
However, NAT can interfere with some VPN implementations because it changes information in a packet's IP header to route the packet to the correct internal IP address. VPN protocols often check the integrity of the packet header and terminate the connection if they detect any changes that were made after the packet was encrypted. Vendors have devised a workaround for this problem: A technique called UDP Traversal encapsulates the IP Security (IPSec) packet in a UDP packet so that the IPSec header can arrive intact. Most vendors, including Microsoft, Nortel Networks, SSH Communications Security, NetScreen Technologies, SonicWALL, and Cisco Systems—in IOS Software 12.2(8) and later—support UDP Traversal. However, some low-end VPN appliances and software implementations might not. Alternatively, if you use IPSec, your router or firewall might support IPSec pass-through, which recognizes the IPSec protocol and lets IPSec packets pass through unaltered, eliminating the need for NAT traversal. You might also be able to work around NAT by turning off IPSec's Authentication Header (AH) element (which verifies the header information), if your VPN allows this level of detail in configuration. Be sure to check with your VPN vendor about NAT if you plan to support remote users through a network that uses NAT.
Billed at $99.00, you save a staggering 41% on the original monthly pricing, which is quite budget-friendly, to say the least. Once you sign up, you receive fast speeds for streaming/downloading all types of content and engage in P2P/torrenting. You also gain the ability of connecting to 5 devices simultaneously, and leveraging a 30-day refund guarantee.

Identity theft occurs when thieves steal your personal information and use it to commit crimes in your name — like taking over or opening new accounts, filing tax returns in your name, or renting or buying property. A VPN can help protect against identity theft by helping protect your data. It creates an encrypted tunnel for the data you send and receive that’s out of reach of cyberthieves.


Israel-based Hola isn’t a traditional VPN in which customers connect to a network of centralized servers owned by the VPN company. Instead, Hola users connect to each other, using other users’ idle bandwidth as part of a large peer-to-peer network. Obviously, this comes with some pretty big security and legal concerns. Users could use each other’s internet for illegal activity, for example. In 2015, Hola used its user’s computers to create a botnet and perform a massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. The abuse of customers’ trust happened entirely without their knowledge.

Torrenting has also become one of the main forms of sharing files online. If you are looking for a quick VPN download for this purpose, then you have come to the right place. Torrenting itself is not inherently illegal, but it is important to check for the copyright holder’s consent before you use your VPN windows to download. In order to torrent without sharing your IP address, you can use one of the top VPNs like IPvanish for secure torrenting. You no longer have to lose sleep worrying that the government is snooping on your torrenting activity. It’s not at all difficult to look for a VPN for windows; just take a look at our pick of the best VPN for torrenting. You can find VPNs for the Ukraine, USA, UK, or almost any other country. 
— Windscribe now supports static residential U.S.-based IP addresses and port forwarding.  The service has a new ad and tracking blocker called "R.O.B.E.R.T." There's also a new "build-a-plan" pricing scheme that charges you $1 per month per country you want to connect to, with 10GB of data per country included. Unlimited data for all the countries you choose costs another $1 per month.
The testing/analyzing process for CyberGhost took us a good one and a half days. This made us realize the provider is a great choice for unblocking websites! Based in Romania, CyberGhost VPN offers great diversity to its user base. It recently introduced the new CyberGhost 6-user interface on its Mac and Windows dedicated apps. This grants for better user-friendliness, which works in favor of the provider.
It's also notable that ExpressVPN is able to gain access to Netflix, which some (like PureVPN) are not able to do. Like PureVPN, ExpressVPN is one of the best for getting around roadblocks in China (though there are only servers in 94 countries), and has up to 256 bit encryption. Get one month for $12.95, six months for $9.99/month, or a one-year subscription for $8.32/month. You would be paying around $10 more per month compared to any other VPN, but the quality is definitely there — and if you're really not happy, you can get your money back within the first 30 days. Another cool thing: You can pay with Bitcoin.

Private Internet Access, or PIA, is one of the most visible, privacy-focused VPNs available. Because of its reputation and advocacy concerning online privacy and security, it has also been a Wirecutter staff pick. But whether you prioritize speed and performance or trust and transparency, our top pick is a better bet. If you find PIA attractive because of its low price, note that spending just a little more on TorGuard will buy you much better performance.


Services like NBC, CBC, BBC, Sky Sports, Sony, and ESPN are often responsible for broadcasting major sporting events like the National Football League (NFL), ICC Cricket World Cup, and AIBA World Boxing, etc. However, most of these resources are geo-restricted to certain countries only. VPNs allow you to save a handsome amount of money, while tackling issues like region blocking.
After you choose your VPN, you must install and maintain it correctly to enjoy all the benefits a VPN can provide. In addition to using a sufficiently long key length, you must properly secure keys and access to VPN concentrators. If you store your keys in plaintext files on Internet-connected computers, all the bits of key length in the world won't help you if someone compromises those computers. You should also change your shared base keys on a regular basis, preferably every 3 months. This practice limits your exposure if a key is compromised.
In addition to blocking malicious sites and ads, some VPNs also claim to block malware. We don't test the efficacy of these network-based protections, but most appear to be blacklists of sites known to host malicious software. That's great, but don't assume it's anywhere near as good as standalone antivirus. Use this feature to complement, not replace, your antivirus.
Most services provide perfectly adequate internet speed when in use, and can even handle streaming HD video. However, 4K video and other data-intensive tasks like gaming over a VPN are another story. Some VPN services, such as NordVPN, have started to roll out specialty servers for high-bandwidth activities. And nearly every service we have tested includes a tool to connect you with the fastest available network. Of course, you can always limit your VPN use to when you're not on a trusted network.
Setting up ExpressVPN and connecting to a VPN server was easy enough. Performance, when connected to the VPN server, was average at 49 Mb/s down and 16 Mb/s up, compared to our usual speeds of 125 Mb/s down and 20 Mb/s up. Netflix complained about a proxy being in use when we used the automatic configuration option, but it worked fine when we manually selected a local U.S. server. Amazon Prime Video played just fine, and our other internet tests completed without issue.
If you’re going to bother with a VPN, you should spend money on a good one—don’t trust a free VPN. Security and privacy cost money, and if you aren’t paying for them, the provider has an incentive to make money from marketers at your privacy’s expense. Though price doesn’t always equal quality, a few dollars a month more for a better experience is worth it for something you’ll use on a regular basis.
What that means in practice is that VPNs are fine for bypassing geo-blocks, for protecting your online banking and for keeping business communications free from interception. However, if you’re using the internet to fight repressive regimes or to do anything else that could attract the attention of the authorities where you live, a VPN is not a magic wand that’ll make you invisible.
Think about all the times you’ve been on the go, reading emails while in line at the coffee shop, or checking your bank account while waiting at the doctor’s office. Unless you were logged into a private Wi-Fi network that requires a password, any data transmitted during your online session could be vulnerable to eavesdropping by strangers using the same network.

This is also a good way to provide support for more than one family member on a single subscription. Generally, there's no good reason for a VPN provider to allow less than two or three connections. If your provider only allows one, find another vendor. We gave extra points in our VPN directory to those vendors who allowed three or more connections.
Companies deploying VPNs internationally might face some restrictions on key length. Although the government has lifted most restrictions on exporting strong cryptography, you might still need to obtain approval. Check with the US Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security's Commercial Encryption Export Controls (http://www.bxa.doc.gov/encryption) for specific restrictions that might exist for your deployment.
Based in Sweden, Mullvad is undoubtedly one of the most privacy-focused VPN services in the marketplace, second to NordVPN. In addition to its strategic location, as mentioned earlier, the provider offers a huge range of advanced anti-censorship technologies. For instance, it is rare for VPNs to be blocked, but countries like Russia, Iran, and China are quite strict when it comes to blocking western services and keeping their network secure.
These services offer many ways to connect, including without the service's client software; support operating systems and devices, such as routers or set-top boxes, beyond just the "big four" operating systems (Windows, Mac, Android and iOS); have hundreds, or even thousands, of servers in dozens of countries; and generally let the user sign up and pay anonymously.
Whereas most providers say they log nothing, that’s not always the case. Some record very little data like the day you subscribed, the amount of data you’ve consumed, and delete those logs when you end the session. Other providers log your IP address, the servers you used, and store those logs. If they’re based in the US, UK or any other country with data retention laws, they can be compelled to hand over that data to law enforcement.
It reduces the monthly pricing all the way down to $3.29 by giving you an amazing 72% discount! Best part of all: you have a 30-day refund guarantee available. This means, if you do not feel comfortable using the VPN, you can always request for your money back. Once you subscribe to NordVPN though, you gain access to a huge list of 4452 servers in 62 countries worldwide. They come in handy for unblocking VoDs or engaging in P2P.
For large-scale implementations, choose a hardware device such as a VPN concentrator or VPN-enabled network appliance. Hardware-based VPNs perform better for larger installations. Also, the security of a software-based VPN built on a host with an OS such as Windows, UNIX, or Linux depends on the underlying security of that OS. Thus, you must keep the OS patched as well as keep an eye on the VPN software.
Jacob Roach is a Midwesterner with a love for technology, an odd combination given his corn field-ridden setting. After finishing a degree in English at Southern New Hampshire University, Jacob settled back under the Arch in his hometown of St. Louis, MO, where he now writes about anything tech. His main interests are web technologies and online privacy, though he dips his toes in photography and the occasional card game as well. You can reach him at jacob[at]cloudwards.net.
VPN security boils down to two main topics: encryption level and protocol. The VPN protocol determines how the connection will happen, what encryption the connection will use and other miscellaneous information for establishing it. We normally stick to OpenVPN, but you can learn about the differences between protocols in our VPN protocol breakdown.
Hide Your Browsing Activity From Your Local Network and ISP: If you’re using a public Wi-Fi connection, your browsing activity on non-HTTPS websites is visible to everyone neraby, if they know how to look. If you want to hide your browsing activity for a bit more privacy, you can connect to a VPN. The local network will only see a single, secure VPN connection. All the other traffic will travel over the VPN connection. While this can be used to bypass connection-monitoring by your Internet service provider, bear in mind that VPN providers may opt to log the traffic on their ends.
TunnelBear has some strong supporters among Wirecutter’s staff. The company has a public history of transparency, staff listings, and the clearest privacy policy of any VPN service we’ve found, plus TunnelBear is one of the only VPNs to release a public audit of its system. But the service was one of the least reliable we tried. In four of our 18 connection tests, we managed broadband speeds; in a handful of others TunnelBear was well below the average, and in even more it failed to provide a usable connection at all. As we were writing this guide, security giant McAfee announced that it had acquired TunnelBear. Fans of the service should keep an eye out for changes to its privacy stance and transparency as the US-based firm takes over.
For mobile devices, the situation is a little thornier. Most companies offer VPN apps for Android and iOS, which is great because we use these devices to connect to Wi-Fi all the time. However, VPNs don't always play nice with cellular connections. That said, it takes some serious effort to intercept cellphone data, although law enforcement or intelligence agencies may have an easier time gaining access to this data, or metadata, through connections with mobile carriers or by using specialized equipment.

Chromecast and other streaming protocols send data over your local network, but that's a problem when you're using a VPN. Those devices are looking for streaming data from phones and computers on the same network, not from a distant VPN server. Likewise, smart home devices may be gathering lots of data about you and your home that you'd rather not have intercepted. Unfortunately, these devices simply cannot run VPNs. The solution for both problems is to move the security up a level by installing a VPN on your router. This encrypts data as it leaves your safe home network for the wild web. Information sent within your network will be available, and any smart devices connected to your network will enjoy a secured connection.

The only downsides to Private Internet Access are that you can't select your own username — you've got to stick with an assigned random ID — and that you've occasionally got to reinstall a balky driver in Windows. (There's a button to do this.) Selecting Private Internet Access as our VPN service of choice was almost a no-brainer, but because it's based in the U.S., anyone wary of the FBI may want to consider another service.

VPN websites that label themselves as “Privacy Mentors”, “Security Professionals” and blah blah are really just phony! We at BestVPN.co, however, take honesty and unbiasedness very seriously. This website was created from the dire need of a legit and accurate review website. One that refuses to get “paid” to list a certain provider.After all, we want our viewers to be well-informed and ensure they are making the right decision. Especially, since there has been a massive surge in VPN providers using illegal practices to boost their sales.
Ideally, every VPN service provider would subject itself to independent audits to verify that it logs and operates as it claims. Right now, audits aren’t common practice in the VPN industry, though there’s a push to change that. Joseph Jerome, policy counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology, told us about that group’s efforts to bring transparency to the VPN industry: “We would like to see security audits released publicly so security researchers can review them and attest to their veracity, as well as learn from the issues being identified.” The few companies we found that currently performed these types of audits had other dismissal-worthy failings, despite their valiant efforts toward transparency. And while such reports may increase your confidence when you're shopping, there’s no guarantee that an audit makes a VPN service trustworthy: In other industries, conflicts of interest have led auditors and rating agencies (PDF) to miss or ignore major problems.
ExpressVPN is incredibly fast and super secure, and it can unblock just about any site or service on the internet - including Netflix, Hulu, BBC, and more - with impressive streaming capabilities. It offers servers in over 90 countries, and the 24/7 live chat support is one of the friendliest and most professional. ExpressVPN gives a strong fight to NordVPN, while other VPNs lag behind.
Another reason you might choose to use a VPN is if you have something to hide. This isn't just about folks doing things they shouldn't do. Sometimes people really need to hide information. Take, for example, the person who is worried he or she might be discriminated against by an employer because of a sexual preference or medical condition. Another example is a person who needs to go online but is concerned about revealing location information to a person in their life who might be a threat.

When it comes to servers, more is always better. More servers mean that you're less likely to be shunted into a VPN server that is already filled to the brim with other users. NordVPN, Private Internet Access, and TorGuard currently lead the pack with well over 3,000 servers each—NordVPN is at the forefront with 5,130 servers. But the competition is beginning to heat up. Last year, only a handful of companies offered more than 500 servers, now it's becoming unusual to find a company offering fewer than 1,000 servers.
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